Amina’s secondment at the ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany

Amina Khalid, our ESR 7 spent her second secondment in Frankfurt, Germany. She seconded to ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH, where she learned about the industrial application of ecotoxicology tools. She focused on comparing the chronic toxicity test results to the fish acute toxicity tests. You can read in her short report about her research experiences and her exciting journey and trips around Frankfurt.

February 2023 News

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I am the ProRisk project's ESR7. My PhD research focuses on the use of physiological and performance traits of fish as effect endpoints in the context of ecological risk assessment. In the second year of my PhD, I was seconded to ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH to learn about the industrial application of ecotoxicology tools. In my PhD, I added a study objective to compare the results of chronic toxicity tests that I had previously conducted at my home university to the results of OECD-regulated acute toxicity tests for the chemical of my choice. Furthermore, during my time at ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH, I became acquainted with the application of good laboratory practices (GLP).

Flamboyant sunset and an exuberant display of silhouette of Frankfurt's skyline
Frankfurt's old town

I had to finish my experiment (the one with chronic toxicity) before embarking on this trip, so my to-do list was naturally overflowing with activities unrelated to travel. Regardless, I boarded the plane and made it to Frankfurt without having a nice and shiny travel plan. I stayed in Mainz for two nights and tried my luck with real estate companies. During these two days, I was mentally occupied with creating a backup plan and responding to all the impromptu questions that kept popping up. Fortunately, the emotional meltdown paved the way for me to find my 'home' for a month after receiving numerous emails and messages of apology.

Sporting activities in the river Main
Amusing instructions for check-out

Organizing the buses and train to get to the office was the next task after settling in (which was another challenge in itself). There was no direct route to the workplace because ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH is in a location that is difficult to reach by public transportation. I got the chance to tour a town on the first day of my secondment since, apparently, I took the incorrect train. Being unable to communicate in German and at a remote location, my only option was to grab a cab, pay the driver whatever he demanded, and reach the workplace. It took me 2.5 hours since I took an unplanned diversion but taught me to be cautious on the future trips. Luckily, in the same month Germany launched a 9-euro ticket for an entire month, making getting on and off the train/bus easy.

To avoid getting lost, I used this map, which appears to be a mind-boggling maze at first glance, to avoid ending up in a remote location again.

I met Dr. Anja Coors on my first day at ECT, she introduced me to the staff. I was assigned to Dr. Micro Weil's team since he is an expert in aquatic toxicology, we established a strategy to conduct range-finding studies the same day and organized our plan for the whole month. I gained knowledge about spawn induction, eggs collection, and sampling viable/fertilized eggs.

Spawning induced and eggs collected in the glass container below
Sampling viable/fertilized eggs to place each in a separate well of a 24 well plate for exposure

In the first two weeks I ran two range finders (96h) to establish the lethal dose for the chemical of my choice, in the third week an acute durational definitive test was undertaken (96h). I received instruction by Sarah on how to take measurements of the acute toxicity tests' lethal endpoints, such as somite count, heart rate, otolith, eye pigmentation and development, and coagulation. It was difficult to fix vision on the heart or somite with an athlete fish embryo under the microscope because the embryos would not stop moving, resulting in bouts of visual impairment during the measurements of these endpoints. The results were compiled in the last week with the help of Micro Weil and Sarah and fed into the ToxRat software to obtain acute concentrations for the studied endpoints.

Rhine falls, I stay! (Pun intended)

In Frankfurt, I was surprised to find 'Pakistani mangoes' which I ate in bulk to give a new meaning to the phrase ‘treat yourself nicely’. I also learned a few German words and used them in conversations, and despite my incorrect accent, I did not embarrass myself too much. The nine-euro ticket was lavishly spent on figuring out various routes to work while also sightseeing in Frankfurt and Mainz. Because I was near the border, I had the opportunity to visit Switzerland over the weekend. Also lived the word ‘circumnavigate’ as the pilot kept announcing during the back home flight ‘we are currently circumnavigating a thunderstorm cloud; this is a high turbulence zone please keep your seatbelts fastened’ (dreaded every announcement of the airplane pilot) but most importantly I learnt GLP practices and how to run acute toxicity tests starting from the spawning induction to all the way to acute concentrations.

A photograph I took with shaky hands while circumnavigating a thunderstorm cloud
The rush of dopamine that follows a successful hike uphill to see the waterfall from behind is displayed in the picture

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